Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Strugglers at the WISE Hall July 25th

I hope that everyone now living in Vancouver with an interest in rock'n'roll got to see the Little Guitar Army while they were around. Great, great band. There were always signs that they were going to implode at some point, tho' - inner tensions, bad weirdness, and a size that, short of massive infusions of cash, made extensive touring pretty much untenable: how many buses would they have needed, and how much money per member could they possibly get paid? Insane by design, they were also the greatest thing to happen to rock music in Vancouver since Slow, and probably the greatest theatrical rock spectacle ever to come out of this town (it's not enough to just own the CD: this was a band you had to experience live, and more than one time, because the first time you were not going to believe it). If the phenomenon around rock music still made sense, if the machine wasn't so horribly broken, if there were justice in the world of popular music, the Little Guitar Army would have been playing stadium shows all over the world while bands like U2 played clubs in Dublin.

I still vaguely remember my shock and confusion the first time I caught them live - entirely unprepared and almost by accident; I showed up just because Tony Bardach had mentioned he was playing in the band, and I've always liked Tony, so what the heck. I remember a dozen bandmembers, most in those schoolboy/ schoolgirl uniforms, standing on tables and chairs all over the Railway Club main room, rocking out on their tiny little (ridiculous yet magical) guitars, doing a totally whacked, kick-out-the-jams version of the Blue Oyster Cult's "Godzilla" that blew all the snot and falseness out of the original (recorded in what Mike Watt once called the BOC's "Journey" period) and totally redeemed it. Linda was the female vocalist, at that point, and cut a terrifying figure - equal parts cartoon Nazi and S&M sexbomb - while belting out the lyrics with (the equally powerful but less terrifying, thank God) Bert Man, who presents as a rock'n'roll debauchery lifer. I had one of those rare "oh my god what is this I've never seen anything like this before" moments which are, in fact, pretty fucking few and far between in the world of rock music these days, considering such moments are very nearly the whole point of going to shows. There was an interview that I did with them in confused circumstances that never saw the light, and I gave a kind of critical review to their one album (not because it wasn't great but because the packaging and presentation simply weren't great enough for how cool their band and their songs were)... but there was something very very special about the Little Guitar Army, maybe partially because it was pretty clear it wasn't going to last forever. Maybe something will rise from the ashes of that band. Maybe they will be born anew. I hope so; they were fantastic, and shouldn't just fade into local punk legend.

In the meantime, there's the Strugglers. It might be unfair to them to see them as a fragment, an offshoot, a spinoff - and for all I know they were around before the LGA - but the one time I've caught them, at the SNFU show where this stunning bit of live footage was recorded - I couldn't help myself. They had a higher percentage of LGA glory in their act than I expected, and, I believe, three members who were either active LGA, or alum. Bert Man, on vocals, was ever bit as insanely compelling as he was with LGA, and maybe a bit moreso, as he stripped out of his big green lizard suit to sing in his tiny undies (did you click that last link? Do it, and wait for it). Orchard Pinkish, also active LGA at that point, was onstage on guitar, too. And now, they've made a DVD of rock videos with the guy who did the  LGA "30 Watts to Freedom" video, Dave Tamkin, and are going to be headlining a show at the WISE Hall, July 25th (this Friday), which sure does seem like THE rock and roll event to be at in Vancouver this weekend.

"The vids are very sex drug rock and roll," Bert Man tells me via Facebook. The one video he showed me is sure to cause controversy locally, is one of those acts of poor taste that you sort of shudder to see and wait to comment on to see what everyone else says, so you don't get in trouble (there's a dead hooker involved, let's leave it at that). Then there's one which I haven't seen that uses CGI to have "150 foot tall Strugglers cavorting downtown," There will also be props, burlesque girls, a big screen to show the videos on. "I wanna pull out all the stops regarding theatrics," Bert wrote me. "Be a good one to take pictures at... how many more times in my life will I get to put out a DVD, y'know?"

Highly recommend being at the WISE Hall for this show. The Strugglers rock (and Ron Reyes' reijigged Piggy will also be on the bill!). I'm going to be pretty beat if I go see the Andrew Jackson Jihad on Thursday and then work Friday... but this is a show I do not want to miss...

No comments: